The Constitution of India provides certain special Constitutional safeguards for the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections of the population, so that they could take their rightful place in community. As citizens of the Republic of India, they are fully entitled to certain rights and privileges, which were denied to them in the past on the ground of Caste system and the practice of Untouchability. Keeping in view, the Constitutional mandate, The Government of Karnataka, through Social Welfare Department, formulated various programmes and schemes for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (hereafter mentioned as SC & ST) especially for their socio-economic and educational advancement from the year 1956 onwards.
Prior to 1956, Social Welfare Department was earlier called as the Depressed Classes Department. It was headed by the Commissioner for Depressed Classes along with an Additional Development Commissioner. He was in charge of schemes meant for the SC/ST people, Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes and economically backward people. Prior to 1956, the officers at the district level were called as Depressed Class Officers. In the four districts of the erstwhile Bombay State, they were called as the District Special Backward Classes Officers and in the three districts of the erstwhile Hyderabad – Karnataka area, they were called as the Social Officer. In 1956 the Department was named as Social Welfare Department and in 1959, the district level officers were re-designated as District Social Welfare Officers, looking after the welfare of SC/STs, Backward Classes, Minorities, Women and Child Welfare, Physically Handicapped, etc. In the year 1975, the Women and Child Welfare along with Disabled Welfare, was separated into a separate department. The Department of Backward Classes and Minorities separated out in the year 1977, and the Department of Tribal Welfare was separated out from this department in 1998.
Today, the Commissionrate of Social Welfare takes care of the welfare of Scheduled Caste people only. The Commissioner of Social Welfare heads it. (As per 2001 Census, the total population of Karnataka State is 5.29 crores, of which SC and ST constitute about 86 lakhs and 35 lakhs respectively. The percentage of SC and ST population of the State is 16.20% and 6.6% respectively. The literacy rate among SC is 52.90% and ST is 48.31% as against the general literacy of 67.04%).
To implement various schemes and programmes, both Central and State Government provide funds. Though some of the schemes are funded either wholly or partly by the Central Government through the Special Central Assistance, Centrally sponsored Schemes under Special Component Plan and Tribal Sub Plan, majority of the schemes are funded and implemented by State Government alone.
The schemes are implemented broadly at three different levels, one at State level (Social Welfare Commissionerate), other at District level (Zilla Panchayat) and few at the Taluk Panchayat level. These schemes cover the main priority sectors; Education, Employment, Housing, Irrigation, etc.
The office of the Commissioner of Social Welfare, Bangalore, is classified into various sections for administrative convenience such as Education Section, which monitors and implements Educational Schemes, Employment and Training Section – monitors and implements Employment and Training Schemes, Special Component Plan – in-charge of monitoring the Special Component Plan, Co-ordination Section, which co-ordinates the activities of all sections and also implements certain schemes such as compensation to atrocities victims, construction of Ambedkar Bhavana at District and Taluk level, training to law graduates.